I know you guys connected through the online writing contest, PitchWars, but what led to your collaboration on A Lifetime According to Karma Rose?
Rebecca Sky: We did meet through Pitchwars. Kayla was my mentee! We came to work together on this collaboration by the stars aligning. I literally posted something like this on twitter: “looking to collab with Timburtonesque style animator.” Then I get a message from Kayla saying, “um, you know I’m an art major, right?” It seemed too good to be true, and when she sent me the sample art, I knew it was too good to be true! She’s freaking talented, both as an animator and a writer.
Kayla Rivera: Like Rebecca said, it was basically fate telling us we were meant to be. I saw her post looking for drawings of Timburton-esque images, and I said to myself, “Hey. I think I can do that style.” I’d been playing around with different cartooning techniques, so I drew a few sample images, sent them her way, and she made my life with her reply: “OMG I LOVE THEM!”
Rebecca, this is a serialized story where most installments take place against a ticking clock. Did you write the whole book before publishing the chapters via Wattpad? Or are you writing as the installments get published?
Rebecca: Normally, when I serialize online, I write and publish as I go. It allows me to be more playful with my readers, and use their feedback and reactions to deepen the reading experience. But in this case, A Lifetime is already complete. I wrote it originally with the mindset of traditional publishing, but the book kept growing beyond what’s “standard” both in style and form–it’s also 25,000 words over publishing norms. It had a certain life I didn’t want to remove for the sake of publication. So when the opportunity came up to partner with Wattpad’s multimedia functions I knew this was the right home for the story.
Kayla, I would describe your art style as influenced by Tim Burton, Anime and Mexican Folk Art. Would you agree with this? How did you develop your art style for this project?
Kayla: I would definitely agree with that! Generally, my art is a little softer than the style used for Karma Rose, but for this story, I wanted to take things in a more visually disconcerting direction. So, I tried to capture what makes Tim Burton Tim Burton—long, skinny lines, dark sketch marks, and reed-like textures—and merge it with the Anime background I know and love. I’m glad to see my Mexican Folklore makes it through, too! I’m half-Mexican, so I like to pull things from the scary stories my abuelo told me, especially for Karma Rose.
How did you guys decide which moments in the story to illustrate?
Rebecca: Kayla is doing one or two illustrations for each chapter. We determine which images to use is pretty organically. I write a bunch of suggestions and she picks the ones that connect best with her and puts her own interpretations on them. It’s really fun to see the images of my imagination brought to life in such an artful way. Also Kayla’s done special chapter headers. For the chapters where my MC is in ordinary life, there is a gate with a clock that tells what time/chapter it is. For the chapters that are in the world of death, the gate is covered in blood and the clock doesn’t work. So there’s little details like that, that only discerning eyes will pick up on.
Kayla: Yeah, like Rebecca said, we find the images very naturally. She sends me a list of ideas for the chapter, like “blonde man with child in box armor on his shoulder” or “scary guy with clockwork leg and shark teeth,” and I pick whatever strikes me the most powerfully. I know immediately which one I want, because when I read the right prompt, a picture pops into my head—layout, direction, movement—and I have to jump on it! Karma Rose is excellent for that, because it’s a visually engaging and memorable story.
Your collaboration has more than 10K reads on Wattpad. How does it feel to have so many people checking out your work?
Rebecca: It’s awesome, and I know there would have been more, but I took an updating sabbatical over the holidays. So momentum fizzled a little. But all the reader’s feedback is the same, the art adds to the depth of the story. And a lot of media attention is on it.
Kayla: Phew, that many? Dang, that’s actually intimidating now that I think about it. But really, it’s to stroll through Karma Rose’s comments and see people’s reaction to the artwork in tandem with the story. I love seeing how something I made brought the story to life for them, and how it evoked emotion of some kind. Just a couple updates ago, someone mentioned how the old woman with no eyes would haunt her nightmares, and it made me laugh so much I had to reply. Moments like that are what I live for.
Rebecca, the last installment, “Nine Dripping Drops,” ended on a bit of a cliffhanger and the story overall is in a pretty intense place. Any hints as to what’s in store for the future
Rebecca: Hmmm, well I don’t want to give anything away. But let’s just say I love to surprise readers, and the pace only gets more intense as you go. The book is framed much like a clock ticking down, with the seconds moving faster than the hours. I will say this, there is a clockwork elephant and a Day of the Dead masquerade! So those are wins!
Any plans for future collaborations?
Rebecca: Oh gosh, I hope so. This girl is too darn talented! And now, I absolutely prefer the reading experience with the added artwork. There’s been talk of doing a companion coloring book. So we shall see.
Kayla: I’d love that! Working with Rebecca gives me an excuse to keep drawing, tackle challenges, and of course, revel in her awesomeness. I love to revel in awesomeness, so I’m crossing my fingers for that future coloring book companion!